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Tree-cutting plan pits Orange County residents, utility

Posted November 29, 2010

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— A fight is brewing over forests in Orange County and parts of Chatham County.

Officials with the Orange Water and Sewer Authority said they need to cut down some trees in 1,900 acres of forest that surround its reservoirs to protect the land, but nearby residents contend that OWASA will only hurt nature and water quality.

"To be honest with you, my first reaction was one of horror," said Terry Newton, whose Efland property abuts OWASA land. "The reason we bought this place was because of what you see – the land, the wildlife, the water."

Newton and her neighbors said cutting trees could hurt the water quality of Cane Creek Reservoir, which supplies drinking water to Chapel Hill and Carrboro. They also point to a photo from a project off Buckhorn Road, where OWASA recently cleared out most of the trees.

"It would break my heart," Newton said, if anything like that happened near her property.

Patrick Davis, the sustainability manager for OWASA, said culling some trees is necessary for the health of the forest.

Tree stump Tree-cutting plan pits Orange County residents, utility

"It would not be a high-quality forest (without culling)," Davis said. "It's more susceptible to insect damage, to disease, to hurricane damage and to catastrophic fire."

OWASA will keep trees in areas bordering its reservoirs to act as buffers to filter out pollutants, and most areas will retain most of their trees, he said.

"We are in no way talking about clear-cutting 1,900 acres," he said.

OWASA will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Maple View Agricultural Center, on Dairyland Road in Hillsborough, to obtain public input before the utility's staff presents the plan to its board, which could happen as early as next month.

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  • bombadil Nov 30, 2010

    This isn't something they hatched last week to recoup a drop in revenue; the plans have been vetted for some time now. Check out http://www.owasa.org/whatwedo/ForestManagementPlan.aspx. These plans were prepared with reviews from DWQ, NCFS, and NCWRC. Those opposed are motivated by emotion, not science. It's hard to have a prodcutive conversation with somebody that's wearing blinders.

  • lizard78 Nov 30, 2010

    Efland is not Chapel Hill. We are not a bunch of liberals. I love the land I own in Efland.

  • olsaltydog Nov 30, 2010

    What the story does not tell you is OWASA wants to apply herbicide, burn and cut timber in the water critical areas. How is this going to improve the water quality of Cane Creek? For years OWASA has b____ about farming and there use of chemicals. Sounds like we won them over to our side.

  • mpheels Nov 30, 2010

    I'm a liberal and an environmentalist, and I say cull the forest. I know several wildland firefighters, and I know what a serious wild fire can do in an poorly managed forest. We intervene in the natural culling process in order to protect human lives and property from large fires, which means we need to occasionally do the culling ourselves. If they truly are just clearing out the old and unhealthy trees, then go for it.

  • toot Nov 30, 2010

    Get a grip lady. She owns 3 acres of cleared land and complains that OWASA is going to ruin her view. Plant your own trees.

    Taw2- shoot me a message. I can take care of those deer.

  • bellablue3333 Nov 30, 2010

    "Leave the trees. I have enough deer in my yard now. I live on Buckhorn Rd and all the trees look terribly butchered, where OWASA cut trees off Buckhorn and Mt Willing. If they made it pretty to look at, it wouldn't be so bad. but it is an ugly mess of sticks. They should be ashamed!!!"

    It will be replanted in loblolly pine and in 3-5 years it will look good. Again, it's just a natural part of forest succession. If we allowed fires to burn then the forest wouldn't need to be thinned, but we don't allow that. And, would you rather have a forest burned to kill mature trees or go ahead and harvest the trees to make some revenue rather than waste them? Technically, this is no different than someone having a neighbor that wants to harvest their trees. In my opinion, the forest management plan for OWASA is THEIR plan, not ours. I don't understand how we can dictate someone else or an organization what to do with their land. They do have everyone's best interests at heart.

  • goner Nov 30, 2010

    "The reason we bought this place was because of what you see – the land, the wildlife, the water."

    Wow - so let me get this straight... This wacko buys land based only on the view of someone else's property, and then complains when they make changes? Too much smokin' trees from this CH liberal. Thank God I don't live over there!

  • Justin T. Nov 30, 2010

    Cut 'em down... anything that makes hippies mad makes me happy.

  • taw2 Nov 30, 2010

    Leave the trees. I have enough deer in my yard now. I live on Buckhorn Rd and all the trees look terribly butchered, where OWASA cut trees off Buckhorn and Mt Willing. If they made it pretty to look at, it wouldn't be so bad. but it is an ugly mess of sticks. They should be ashamed!!!

  • bellablue3333 Nov 30, 2010

    Cutting timber actually increases wildlife, food and shelter for animals. You leave all those "mature trees" standing and they will fall to disease. They might as well make a profit from them while they can before they disease and fall over which I guarantee a lot of them have. A forest like the one they are referring to should be thinned every 8-10 years on average. Yes fire can take care of these issues naturally but the problem is we don't allow fires anymore and any fire made naturally to create such a beneficial disturbance would be put out by the fire department. Same issue out West like in Yellowstone Natl. Park--fire is a wonderful thing and without them lodgepole pine forests won't regenerate. Most fires now, again, are put out and you don't get the benefits that it creates: stratification of seeds to grow, increased habitat, increased food.

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